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It is August 1989. Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers are top of the charts with Swing the Mood. This is important. This is what I’ve let myself in for…
Pre-season completed, we turn our attention to the campaign in the Second Division. We should be one of the favourites to bounce straight back, but there are no easy games in this league. West Ham and Middlesbrough came down with us and will also want immediate returns to the big time, Sunderland are down here with us too, so that will provide a test. But its Leeds who look the most dangerous, and with Gordon Strachan, Vinnie Jones and David Batty in their midfield they’re every but as tough as we are. But it’s a while before we have to go to Elland Road, so for now we focus on the Yorkshire side we start against, Bradford City. Paul Jewell will pull the strings and Jimmy Quinn is dangerous. It’ll be a tough test, but one we should come through.
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Before we can get to kick off, we get news that our bids for Mark Rutherford and Dion Dublin have been rejected. We have cover on the wings, and with young Lee Clark impressing in pre-season I won’t be bullied into overspending. But I will pay more for Dublin, our lack of aerial prowess is still a worry. A £750,000 bid is returned, and we can finally focus on Valley Parade.
We are more than a match for Bradford. We create more chances than them, we work the goalkeeper more often, more corners, higher pass completion, better tackling. But Tommy Wright decides to have a day off, while Paul Tomlinson puts in a Man of the Match performance. We are unlucky early on as Ray Ranson crunches Alan Davies with a perfect tackle, only for David Campbell to pick up the loose ball and slot home. We then proceed to pepper the home goal with shots until half time. Bradford start the second half the brighter, and on 53 minutes Gavin Oliver starts a mazy run past three players, before playing a 1-2 with Davies and doubling the home side’s advantage. I respond by taking off Fereday and O’Brien and going three up top. Jimmy Quinn seals the game on 66 minutes. I had forgotten that O’Brien was leaving stud marks all over Quinn before I replaced him with a forward. Silly really. And that was all she wrote. Lots of chances, no goals. But I’m with Ron Atkinson. Who won man of the match? Their goalkeeper. So we must have played not bad then.
We are still waiting for news of Dion Dublin. Not that my lack of movement in the transfer market has stopped anyone else. Barcelona have smashed the world transfer record to bring in Jean-Pierre Papin for a colossal £17 million. We can only dream of spending that sort of money. He is some player though.
Liverpool beat Arsenal in the Charity Shield, unsurprisingly neither have deemed it necessary to strengthen. A certain Diego Maradona is unsettled after interest from Real Madrid, and Cambridge demand £825,000 plus add-ons for Dion Dublin. I accept their offer, and turn my thoughts to the weekend’s game against local rivals Middlesbrough. It will be my first at the 37,000 seater cauldron that is St. James’ Park, and Boro got off to as poor a start as us, losing 3-0 to Wolves. My scouts tell me Peter Davenport is their dangerman, but I have a sneaky eye on Alan Comfort as well (not that I’m an Orient fan or anything…). We set up with more balance this time, and man-mark their attacking players.
That, right there, is a performance. We start brightly, and Boro can’t get a chance. Our man marking is keeping their four attackers quiet, and Kevin Dillon leaves his mark on as many players as he can. It’s a little disappointing that it takes 33 minutes to score the first goal – Liam O’Brien collecting the rebound from a Mark McGhee free kick. Just before half time, Fereday swings the ball in for Dillon to get on the scoresheet. The second half continues in the same fashion, and we’re just past the hour when McGhee gets one himself, smashing home from close range. Game won, I close it down to a 4-1-4-1 and give young Steve Howey a run out. In the end, a 72nd minute penalty gives O’Brien the chance to double his tally. 4-0, and that’s the way it stayed. The shine is taken off the win slightly by Captain Dillon picking up a second yellow for a completely innocent scything of Bernie Slaven, and his replacement Kevin Brock picks up a knock, but we’re not complaining. We’re up and running.
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